In the wake of a recent court challenge to a lesbian couple seeking a divorce, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper told reporters in Halifax on Thursday his Conservative government would not be revisiting the legality of same-sex marriages.
In 2005, under the auspices of the previous, Liberal government, Canada became the world's fourth country to legalize same-sex marriages, doing so in all 10 Canadian provinces and three territories.
"When we first came to office we had a vote on this issue," Harper said. "We have no intention of further reopening or opening this issue." When he made the statement he was in Halifax making an announcement on a shipbuilding venture. He was not expecting to be asked about same-sex marriages but the question came up over a story in the Globe and Mail newspaper about a lesbian couple seeking a divorce.
Lesbian Couple Denied Divorce
The couple, who can't be identified under court order, were married in Canada in 2005 but are not Canadian and live in Florida and England. Since same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada - the country now has gender-neutral marriage laws - same-sex couples have come from the United States, the U.K., and other countries where same-sex marriages are not legally recognized.
In the case of the lesbian couple, now before a Toronto court, they returned to Canada to obtain a divorce. Justice department lawyers argued that the couple cannot obtain a divorce because they are from countries where same-sex marriages are not recognized. The lawyers also argued that the marriage itself is not legal for the same reason. Harper, however, does not seem to realize this could have happened and has promised to look into the situation.
“In terms of the specifics of the story this morning, I will admit to you that I am not aware of the details,” Mr. Harper said. “This I gather is a case before the courts where Canadian lawyers have taken a particular position based on the law and I will be asking them to provide more details.”
Court ruling on Same-Sex Marriages
A ruling is expected next month and if the court accepts the justice department's claim it could be an embarrassment to the country, in essence having told couples they were legally wed and then reversing it years later. The marriages had garnered considerable goodwill toward Canada, with many couples from other countries singing 'O Canada' on their wedding day. There may also be legal ramifications.
About 5,000 lesbians and gays from countries other than Canada were wed in Canada.